#BusinessRates announcement today – devolution to local council control – #CPC15

Today, at the Conservative Party Conference, George Osborne announced that councils will keep £26million of the business rates that they collect.  I’m very concerned about these changes. Whilst local control could be good I can see numerous pitfalls. However, more worrying is his assertion that the plan is designed to help councils boost their local high streets. Given rates are payable on vacant property (I can only assume that the chancellor knows this?!) I really can’t see what possible incentive there is for councils to encourage occupancy and support business growth… in fact the ONLY difference that can make to their revenue is to reduce it (through discounts and incentives they may well be expected to offer)!

If you’re not up to speed with this news you can read various features if you simply google “business rates” – however, here’s the article from BBC News http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34445311

Business Rates and the Localism Act

My other concern is that under the localism act councils already had the power to offer discounts on business rates. In practice few could as they’d already had budgets culled so there was no spare cash to offer such incentives! I feel that this move gives local councils far greater responsibility but offers them no more resource to manage this new requirement. Putting onus on local councils, one might cynically wonder, simply absolves central government of all responsibiltiy. Not only will there be central savings in terms of resources previously allocated to the administration of business rates but now government have the ability to declare “Business rates are killing the high street – gosh, how awful – the problem is it’s nothing to do with us, it’s your local council who are responsible!”

Balancing business rates revenue centrally has some merit…

So, to me, these changes seem to be central government washing their hands of the job of administering business rates centrally. In so doing they are potentially burdening local councils who are already over stretched, under resourced, and facing continuing budget cuts.

Until now, local councils collected rates and sent a proportion back to central government. This pool of revenue was then reassigned out as part of all councils budgets / funding to deliver their key services. Clearly that proportion of funding allocation will now stop as central government can’t give out what they’ve not collected. Councils in areas with a high density of commercial property will get considerable revenue (whilst business rates are calculated based on a % of property value and property values are higher in high density areas), and may feel able to reduce rates. Councils in areas with far fewer businesses / commercial premises may struggle to get what they need (or what they get now) and may have to increase business rates to make up the shortfall.

Whilst it could be argued that redistribution of tax collected in areas with a high density of commercial premises to areas with few is unfair (in so much as one area funds another), it is also true that the highest proportion of small businesses are in smaller towns as they already can’t afford major metropolitan areas, not to do with rates specifically but to do with rents! If the government want to really help drive grass roots growth, helping small businesses and encouraging occupancy of vacant high street premises, implementing a scheme that makes it more achievable in high density locations where rent already prices-out most small businesses seems a little ill considered to say the least!

Encouraging councils to revitalise their high streets through devolution of business rates responsibility

Finally, Osborne claimed this move was going to encourage local authorities to support business growth. This could only work if empty commercial property incurred a reduced business rates bill… whilst landlords are liable to pay rates on vacant buildings there is no incentive. Only when revenue collected is directly linked to the property being occupied by viable, profitable trading businesses can councils be properly incentivised to “revitalise their high streets”. 

So, I love the sentiment but in implementation I have considerable reservations… let’s see how this plays out in practice!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What’s in store for the future of retail?

Year after year, we’ve seen an increasing amount of innovative technology in stores. As retailers try to bridge the gap between online and in-store sales, we’re experiencing the digital revolution hitting shops across the world. So what are the very basic technologies that both consumers and retailers can expect to welcome in the future? Here are my five predictions for which innovations we are likely to see spring up over the next decade (or even sooner!)

Continue reading

Posted in Future of Retail, The Retail Champion | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Six things #retailers can expect in the run-up to #Christmas

Every year I’m asked for my predictions for the retail industry in the run-up to Christmas, and this year – with the unseasonably warm weather and yesterday having been the hottest Halloween on record – it’s started early.

So, here are my thoughts on what will happen in the retail sector between now and the end of the year…. I don’t have a crystal ball, but these predictions are based on statistics from the same period in 2013, plus a fair bit of “past experience”.

Continue reading

Posted in christmas shopping, Consumer Trends, News, Seasonal Retail | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t panic! The #highstreet is NOT dying!

Yesterday morning, the retail industry woke up to more scaremongering headlines that serve only to feed public pessimism over the high street. I was called up to discuss the matter on Sky News, primarily because I felt more than able to counter the view that stats like this mark the “death of the high street”. The problem is that most people don’t really take the time to understand what exactly these figures mean. Looking at the statistics in detail, it’s simply not as clear-cut as the media, or rather the data source (who garner a huge amount of media coverage by publishing these stats), would have us believe.

Continue reading

Posted in Consumer Trends, News | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why free advice might kill your business #indieretail #enterpriserocks

Most business owners will leap at the opportunity to get some free advice (perhaps it’s the reason you’re reading this blog), but it’s important to remain wary of exactly how this “free” assistance will affect your business. You may not realise it but a lot of advice floating around could actually damage your company’s success.

Reviving the high street

I’ve spoken to three retailers recently who described their experiences with local council advisors. As well as receiving poor free advice from these “specialists” (which, thankfully, was ignored), they were shocked to find these advisors dissuading them from taking a physical location for a shop.

One size definitely doesn’t fit all!

The sad truth is, free advisors generally seem to be bureaucrats or career consultants who are paid to offer homogenised advice to speciality businesses. In this particular example the advisors focused on attempting to talk 3 start-up retailers (with a very personalised and unique product and customer experience) out of setting up shop on the high street and instead encouraging them to seek success online or out of town.

Grass roots high street revival depends on new, innovative retail businesses taking up vacant property!

It is quite simply insanity. On the one hand regeneration departments within our councils are tasked with reviving the high street, on the other hand they employ these advisors, who, despite their lack of knowledge or understanding of retail or consumer-facing businesses, are holding a position of high-regard as the “council’s business advisor”… But as generalists, not specialists, how can they be expected to provide relevant, useful advice to those business owners when their expertise falls so short of what is needed by today’s retailers? I assume that the retailers who were urged to avoid taking on high street premises never fed back their experiences to the town centre regeneration team either! Perhaps if they had then something could have been done to address the issue of departments not working cohesively!

When it comes to business advice, you get what you pay for…

As in all walks of life, any business advice given to you is worth only what you pay for it… and of course, it’s only any VALUE if you actually use it to implement change! If you have the chance to listen to some free guidance, be wary of the lessons you take away with you – free advice is never specialised to you and your business, and won’t necessarily help you choose the right route for your company.

Enterprise Rockers is a fabulous group that I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years. As a community they really care about the needs of you and your business. The Rockers community actively champion micro-enterprises and equally despise “free” mentors or advisors – those that kill off the businesses of thousands of real-world, professional experts who actually offer effective and appropriate advice to their business customers.

Instead of seizing free advice every time it’s offered, consider investing in paid advice which could actually benefit your business. It may not be as expensive as you imagine!

Shameless plug… :-)

My mentoring services vary from 1-2-1 to small group sessions, delivered both online and face-to-face. Best of all, they’re bespoke to your business / industry sector and you’ll benefit from learning from the expertise of The Retail Champion, which spans decades immersed in the retail industry. Why not have a look at some testimonials from previous clients?

If you’re interested in stepping away from free and potentially fatal advice, and instead want to invest in some real expert guidance, give us a call of 01727 238890 or email champion@retailchampion.co.uk to see which options are available to you.

Posted in The Retail Champion | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

.@RetailChampion & @FutureHighSt campaigner congratulates @NorthKestevenDC on BOLD move enabling @Tesco development

Too often, major supermarkets, such as Tesco, are blamed for the “death of the high street”. My belief is that larger, out-of-town retailers can be to blame for this: within towns, where supermarkets offer free parking and vital services, the local community is encouraged to stay local, rather than drive for miles to find a decent-sized shop. Unfortunately, many remain blind to the truth of a town-centre supermarket presence and stubbornly dig their heels in to prevent such developments, slowing down economic growth and much-needed regeneration!

Continue reading

Posted in News, The Retail Champion | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

What is multi-channel retail?

I recently was asked to add my comments to a selection of questions about multi-channel retail for a feature in a publication. I thought it would be interesting to share my thoughts in full as my comments will be edited and used as extracts for the article! What follows are the questions and my answers… enjoy!

Continue reading

Posted in Consumer Trends, customer engagement, multi-channel, The Retail Champion | Tagged | 3 Comments